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Dec 11, 2011 11:30 AM

New Year's Eve Trip - Need Suggestions

Hi Chicago Hounds! I am a KY Hound coming to your city for New Year's Eve and want to try as much good food as possible. My fiance and I will be arriving on Thursday, Dec. 29 and leaving Monday, Jan. 2. We are staying at the Essex Inn on Chicago on South Michigan Ave. Here is what I have put together so far:

Thursday night: The Publican or Sable after we check into the hotel

Breakfast: ?
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Tru (already have reservations)

Breakfast: ?
Lunch: ?
Dinner: Alinea (already have reservations)

Brunch: ?

Breakfast: ?

I really want to visit Hot Doug's, a good restaurant in Greek town, Lou Malnati's or Uno. Any suggestions are welcomed! Thank you very much!

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  1. Unfortunately, Hot Doug's will have to wait for another trip:
    For most people, the holidays and new year are a time for reflection,
    a time to gather with family and friends, a time to bring joy to others. For Hot Doug's, it's a time to drink scotch and never leave the house.

    THEREFORE... HOT DOUG'S WILL BE CLOSED FOR VACATION SATURDAY, DECEMBER 24 THROUGH WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 4. We will re-open Thursday, January 5~ have a happy and safe holiday, my friends! :)

    If you do want an upscale hot dog/sausage, there's Franks 'n Dawgs in Lincoln Park. For me, I think Doug's is a little more successful in terms of balancing flavors and not going so over the top with, well, toppings that the sausage is lost in the mix but FnD is still tasty. They do have better buns, though, hands down.

    1. Where will you be on those days - any set plans for museums, tours, etc? It would be easier to suggest restaurants based on geography if you know ahead of time.

      There is a Lou Malnati's close to your hotel and I would recommend that. It is the South Loop location.

      I like the Parenthon best in Greek town.

      Close by your hotel is Yolk for breakfast and Mercat a la Plaxa for tapas.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lbs

        We don't have any set plans except for the dinner reservations. I do want to go to Sear's Tower, the Museum of Art, the Aquarium, and probably the Navy Pier. Thank you for your reccommendations!

        Bummer about Hot Doug's! I also plan on visiting the Doughnut Vault.


      2. For Sunday brunch one place to consider is North Pond; it is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and offers a three course brunch featuring savory dishes and a dessert course rather than breakfast fare. It is in a beautiful location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood near the zoo and features great views of the pond and the Chicago skyline. Outstanding food and service.

        If you enjoy great cocktails, I'd encourage you to try to have pre dinner drinks at The Aviary (West Loop neighborhood) one evening. They take a limited number of same day reservations and are open every night at 6:00pm, but closed Sundays and Mondays. Details on scoring same day reservations can be found on their Facebook page.

        For dinner Sunday one place to consider might be Chicago's newest fine dining venue - Chris Nugent's Goosefoot. Last night was the grand opening. It is in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, so (like North Pond) would require a cab ride from downtown. I dined last night at Goosefoot and thought it was outstanding.

        Purple Pig (downtown, Michigan Avenue) is a place to consider for lunch one day. No reservations, so you may have to wait a bit if you arrive during peak times. Great nose to tail cuisine and fun (but loud) atmosphere.

        Blackbird reportedly has a great (and very affordable lunch) but is only open weekdays for lunch, so Friday that might be an option for you. I have yet to go there but have reservations next month.

        Enjoy your stay!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gonzo70

          Thank you so much!! We def plan to go to Aviary one night. Will let you know our final plans!

        2. Sounds like a great trip!

          Let's start with breakfast. Fortunately, the Essex Inn is near some great places for breakfast/brunch. I wouldn't bother with Yolk, which is just your ordinary everyday egg and pancake dishes, nothing special. Similarly, I would skip Waffles, another place that just doesn't hack it in a city with great breakfast places. Instead, go to Bongo Room, at Roosevelt (12th) and Wabash, which has terrific pancakes, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. A standard portion size there is three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can also get a one-third or two-thirds portion size at a reduced price, so you can try multiple dishes. Another good breakfast place nearby is Little Branch Cafe, which is on the ground floor of a residential high-rise and has some excellent dishes cooked to order. As for Doughnut Vault, I wouldn't bother unless you happen to be walking by. I've been there, and the donuts are decent as donuts go, but not any better than or different from what you find at say Dunkin' Donuts.

          As for lunch and dinner, there are so many great places to go! I'll second the recommendation above for Mercat a la Planxa, the tapas restaurant, which is right near your hotel; it's probably a better choice for your first night than the Publican or Sable, both of which are over a mile away. Go to Sable later in your trip, for their delicious contemporary American small plates as well as their craft cocktails.

          Beyond that, it all depends on what you like. Our provincial Mexican restaurants are terrific, featuring food that is not found in most other cities this side of the border. From your hotel, you could hop on the el (CTA Pink Line) and take it to the 18th Street station for Mundial Cocina Mestiza, one of our best. Rick Bayless's restaurants in River North, Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, are also excellent, although they fill up and I wouldn't go without a reservation unless you can be there when they open the doors. (You might want to try grabbing a Friday lunch res at Topolobampo.)

          There are lots and lots of great contemporary American restaurants, as there are in most other cities. I love the food at Sable. I also love North Pond, recommended above, for its setting in the middle of the park as well as for its great food; you might want to request seating in the front room (with full-length windows facing the pond and skyline) when you make your reservation, but even the rear room with the open kitchen is fun. I'm not a fan of the Publican; some dishes (notably the seafood) are very good, but others (like the pork rinds) are just okay, and the desserts are dreadful. For great seafood, consider GT Fish, a new place which does it in a small plates format. As noted above, Blackbird is a good option for a Friday lunch; Purple Pig for Saturday lunch (avoid it for dinner as they don't take reservations and waiting times are 90-120 minutes, not worth it). We have several places doing a great contemporary version of Italian cuisine, notably Piccolo Sogno; others include the Florentine and Vivere, both of which are in the Loop, walkable from your hotel. We also have lots more places, ranging from the commonplace (steaks at David Burke's or Chicago Cut) to the unusual (Latin fusion at Carnivale).

          I'm frankly not all that enamored with our Greek food, just because it hasn't evolved over the years the way many other cuisines have. The other places mentioned here are SO much better, IMHO. But if you want to go, Santorini and Greek Islands are good choices; you can find more recommendations in the big discussion at (It's not that recent, but again, these places haven't changed at all in years.)

          Most of these places accept reservations, and I strongly recommend making them in advance, the sooner the better. (You may find that some of your choices are already full.) Also, most of these restaurants are in or near downtown, so they're reasonably convenient to your hotel and the tourist sights; while we also have great restaurants in some of our outlying neighborhoods and suburbs, you really don't have to go all the way to Lincoln Square for Goosefoot (or Lakeview, where Deleece, another great restaurant, is) to find great food, unless you happen to be in those areas anyway. If I were here for just a few days and staying downtown, I wouldn't want to spend a lot of my limited time here in transit back and forth to faraway places.

          Mundial Cocina Mestiza
          1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

          Blackbird Restaurant
          619 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60606

          Bongo Room
          1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

          David Burke's Primehouse
          616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

          Frontera Grill
          445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          North Pond
          2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

          445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

          Mercat a la Planxa
          638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

          Piccolo Sogno
          464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

          71 W Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603

          Greek Islands Restaurant
          200 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

          Santorini's Restaurant
          138 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

          Little Branch Cafe
          1251 S Prairie Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

          702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661

          Sable Kitchen & Bar
          505 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

          The Florentine
          151 W. Adams, Chicago, IL 60601

          Purple Pig
          500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

          Chicago Cut Steakhouse
          300 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60654

          GT Fish and Oyster
          531 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL

          1. Thank you for all of the suggestions!! We leave in the morning and here is my itinerary that I have come up with:

            Dinner: The Publican or Sable

            Breakfast: Bongo Room
            Lunch: One of Rick Bayless' restaurants
            Dinner: Tru

            Breakfast: Little Branch Cafe
            Lunch: Lou Malnati's or Uno
            Dinner: Alinea
            *debating as to whether or not to buy tickets to the Aviary for New Year's. They offered today when they called to confirm our reservation. The tickets are $200 a piece and include drinks and food. Our reservation is for 5:15 at Alinea and I do not have plans for the rest of night. Thoughts?

            Brunch: North Pond
            Dinner: Purple Pig

            Breakfast: ?
            We leave at 11:00, so it may just be at the hotel.

            Thanks again! Have a Happy New Year!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Roadpony

              Do the Aviary tickets include tax? One one hand, it is a lot of money to drop for one night. One the oher hand, I doubt you'll be cattle in room waiting in long queues for watered down drinks like most places that have NYE packages. It all depends on how you want to celebrate.

              1. re: lbs

                The Aviary tickets (at least when announced) were $250 per/person and this included service but not 11% tax. It also only included passed "bites" - i.e. light appetizers, but not a meal. I have not heard anything to indicate that the price dropped to $200, but perhaps they are now discounting the unsold tickets - or offering them at this lower rate to people dining at Alinea.